Bleak economy, gloomy winters drive young graduates away

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BY NICK MCWHERTER
Capital News Service
LANSING- Her mind is made up. Convinced there is greater opportunities elsewhere, Samantha Parent, a Central Michigan University senior, plans to leave Michigan for Texas to look for a job following graduation.
Jobs are scarce, prospects are thin and Parent is just one of many college graduates fleeing the state for warmer climates and stronger economies.
Michigan residents are bolting the state for southern states such as Texas and Florida, according to recent information from the Census Bureau. This continues the state’s trend of losing residents in recent years.
More people left Michigan in 2010 than moved here from other states or countries, putting the state at a net loss of 16,700 residents. Michigan was the only state to have lost population in the last decade and has lost 350,000 people during those years, said Kurt Metzger, director of Data Driven Detroit, a southeast Michigan organization that analyzes community data.
“I am sure some of this movement, especially to the warmer climates, is some people looking to retire,” said Larry Rosen, senior project manager at Public Policy Associates, an organization that analyzes state demographics and other issues. “But other people are leaving looking for jobs presumably.”
But it’s the fleeing of youth that worries Metzger.
The population migration has come down to an issue of whom we are losing and whom we are keeping in Michigan, Metzger said.
Michigan should be more concerned with college students leaving after graduation than with elders leaving for retirement, he said. A big concern is that Michigan is not attracting young graduates from other parts of the country.
The only age demographic in Michigan that is growing is that of 50 years or older, every other group is getting smaller, Metzger said. This makes Michigan less vibrant, hurting the state’s chances to attract young people.
“It’s all about perception and Michigan is not viewed by young people as a very inviting place to be,” Metzger said.
Parent is one of many young students that plan to leave the state. She is prepping to move to Houston following graduation in December because of Michigan’s economy and winters.
“I know a lot of my friends are going out of state; even if it is not to Texas, just because they can’t really find anything here,” Parent said. “Or they get a job offer here to relocate out of state, which is basically the same thing as looking (elsewhere) anyways.
“For every four jobs I have applied for in Michigan, I have probably applied for eight in Texas, there is just so much more going on there,” Parent said.
However, family and familiarity keep some graduates in Michigan, regardless of the economy.
Carly Kropf, a Michigan State junior, adamantly wants to stay in Michigan after she graduates.
She is a Grand Rapids native and said that she would like to stay there after college because of the seasons and the family atmosphere.
“The Michigan job market isn’t great but I think it is not great everywhere,” she said. “I really don’t think that leaving Michigan is going to be that much more beneficial.
“The Grand Rapids area… it is family oriented and that’s where my family is. It is a big city but it is not overwhelming like Chicago or New York. I like the small town feel of it.”
But other graduates are looking for a change or a lively community that isn’t offered in Michigan.
Some young people are leaving for a place that offers many things that Michigan doesn’t, Metzger said.
Students are moving to where there is a vibrant scene, where there is an idea of density, diversity, public transit and kind of a much more liberal way of looking at things, he said. “We don’t have cool cities.”
© 2011, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Nonmembers cannot reproduce CNS articles without written permission.

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